Can the Joliet Wolves Repeat as NJCAA Champs?

Many long-time followers of junior college football were somewhat stunned when Joliet won the 2002 NJCAA title over Georgia Military. Both teams entered the championship tilt with identical 10-0 marks, but it was the Wolves who came out on top as the Illinois school won their first championship. Although they may be hard-pressed to repeat as champs, Joliet has the makings of another solid ball club in 2003.


Head Coach: Bob MacDougall (4th season; also coached College of DuPage for 21 years)

2002 Recap: The Wolves finished the year 11-0, defeating Georgia Military (in Brunswick, Ga.) 24-14, for the NJCAA title. Joliet trailed 14-0, then scored 24 unanswered points in their historic victory. "It was the first opportunity for an Illinois school to compete for a national championship," MacDougall noted. The Wolves were led by QB Jim Peyton (SW Missouri St.), who threw for over 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns. On the receiving end of many of those scoring strikes was WR Kelvin Hayden. The Illini-bound wide out hauled in 66 balls for 1,176 yards, along with 12 touchdowns. Defensively, Joliet was stingy against the run, giving up only 38 yards per game.

2003 Outlook: Joliet should do an admirable job defending its title in 2003, with 10 players whom were at least part-time starters returning. "The strength of our team is the overall speed at the skill positions," MacDougall said. Leading the speed demons is WR Antoine Bagwell (6-1, 185), a D1 prospect.  The o-line is also solid, with mammoth T Adam Cully (6-6, 355) and C Keith Holden leading the way. MacDougall is not only pleased with his team's speed, but experience. "We have 24 veterans from our championship roster back and some good depth," MacDougall explained.

A wildcard contributor could be former Univ. of Michigan signee, Kelly Baraka, who will play tailback and could return kicks. Baraka was expected to contribute for Michigan as a true freshman last season but ran into off-the-field problems.

Defensively, the four linebackers who helped Joliet yield only 38 yards per game rushing have departed, but MacDougall noted that LB Todd Cowan (6-0, 227) is a standout. The coach also had high praise for DE Rob Ninkovich (6-2, 238), who leads the charge up front along with pre-season 2nd team All-NJCAA defensive tackle A.J. Lindsay (6-3, 309). CB Josh Taylor (6-0, 180) shines in the secondary along with Martell Taylor (6-2, 180). Joliet has speed and depth, but a key may be the intangibles (penalties, turnovers, injuries, etc.) going in their favor. How often does a team get the breaks to go their way and stay undefeated two straight years?

First Game: Joliet begins defending its title August 30th at home against W.R. Harper.

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